COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—After his postgame remarks, VMI coach Duggar Baucom asked about the big showdown between Michigan and Ohio State in football next Saturday.
When a reporter joked that Ohio State was a basketball school, Baucom deadpanned, “It was tonight.”
Daequan Cook scored 22 points and No. 7 Ohio State’s Thad Five recruiting class opened the season with a record-setting 107-69 victory over VMI on Friday night in the opening round of the BCA Classic.
“Our guys played against some guys they’ll be watching on TV before long,” Baucom said. “He (Ohio State coach Thad Matta) has a stable of horses.”
It was a spotty game for both teams, particularly so for the Buckeyes with two freshmen and a junior-college transfer in the starting lineup.
“I don’t know if I’ve coached in a game like that, where offensively you’re basically making plays the entire night,” Matta said as he ran his record to 7-0 in openers as a head coach.
Cook, who came off the bench, also had nine rebounds to lead the freshmen. His 22 points is the most ever by an Ohio State freshman in an opener, breaking Michael Redd’s record of 21 in 1997.
“I felt comfortable,” Cook said. “I let the game come to me. Coach Matta and I talked about the fact that I was rushing a lot of shots and drawing a lot of charges. I tried to relax and let the game come to me.”
Classmates David Lighty added 11 points and Mike Conley Jr.—son of the 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump—totaled 10 assists.
“That was a real good test, especially the way they played a pressing defense the whole game,” Conley said. “That kind of defense causes a lot of turnovers and for me to have only two turnovers shows I took care of the ball.”
Hunter, the transfer, had eight points and 13 rebounds.
“Coach told us we didn’t do a good job rebounding in the two exhibition games,” the 6-foot-9 forward said. “He made us work on it, box out and go get the ball.”
Among the veterans, Jamar Butler added 18 points, Ivan Harris 17 and Ron Lewis 15 for the Buckeyes, who have one starter back (Butler) from last year’s team that went 26-6 and won the Big Ten title.
The 107 points was an Ohio State record at Value City Arena, breaking by three points the mark set a year ago in a victory over Penn State. It was the biggest production from a Buckeyes team since a 121-96 win over George Mason in early 1995. The Buckeyes also tied an arena record with their 43 field goals.
The biggest-profile Buckeye—7-foot center Greg Oden, the prize center of Matta’s acclaimed recruiting class—is recovering from wrist surgery that will likely sideline him until the first of the year.
Oden strolled out to the bench shortly before the opening tip wearing tan pants, a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a towel around his neck. He wore a scarlet, gray and black brace on his right wrist.
Reggie Williams had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Fred Robinson 16 points and Matt Murrer 15 for the Keydets.
The teams combined for 81 3-point attempts in a wild, wide-open game. The Keydets were 11-for-47 to set a school mark for attempts. The Buckeyes were 13-of-34.
“Honestly, we had to play that way,” Matta said. “Then at about the 15-minute mark of the second half, they weren’t coming as quickly behind us and we had really good spacing. We told our players, ‘Go. Keep attacking them.”’
Ahead 56-49 early in the second half, the Buckeyes finally broke free with a 16-5 run. Hunter got it going with a tip-in and Butler and Lewis each added 3-pointers during the spurt, Lewis scoring five points and Harris four.
They later added a 19-0 run that featured a high-flying tomahawk dunk by Cook, the Buckeyes ending the game on a 30-8 run.
“They’re as advertised,” Baucom said. “Their defense was much better in the second half. Every shot was contested. They started playing Big Ten basketball and got real physical with us.”
The Buckeyes advance to meet Loyola of Chicago—a 68-57 winner over Princeton—in Saturday night’s second round. The Keydets play Princeton.
The Buckeyes led 51-43 after a ragged first half in which VMI squeezed off 50 shots. Cook hit his first seven shots from the field.
“I still had some butterflies in my stomach, since it was my first college game,” Cook said.
It sure didn’t look like it.